Robert E. Lee’s Final Ride in Dallas

Yesterday the people of Dallas, Texas removed the Robert E. Lee monument from a local park, where it had stood since 1936. That now makes four cities (New Orleans, Baltimore) and Austin – if you include the university – that have removed monuments to Robert E. Lee.

Removal of Robert E. Lee Monument in Dallas, TX (Source: Reuters)

This latest removal suggests that we are far from finished with Confederate monument removals. Of course, these are decisions that will continue to be made in local communities, by the very people who must decide whether these monuments still represent their shared values, but the overall impact is crystal clear.

Even if this most recent wave of removals ceases, it is clear that what we have witnessed is a broad-based rejection of what the Confederacy and the men enshrined in these monuments and memorials always embodied:

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. – Alexander Stephens, March 21, 1861

Our public spaces ought to be places where the men and women memorialized represent the highest values of its residents. We should at least be able to agree that the people who fought to make Stephens’s “great truth” a reality are not deserving of such an honor.

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“Levin’s study is the first of its kind to blueprint and then debunk the mythology of enslaved African Americans who allegedly served voluntarily in behalf of the Confederacy.”–Journal of Southern History

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8 comments… add one
  • Msb Sep 15, 2017 @ 16:54

    The people who go to St Paul’s in Richmond decided to remove memorials of Jackson and Lee from their church. No government involvement at all.
    The students at Texas backed the removal of Confederate statues from the university plaza, though people want Gov. Hogg back.
    And while residents of Durham removed the local soldier statue for themselves, I was unhappy that they destroyed it in the process.
    The Lee & friend statue in Dallas is huge but nice looking. I hope a new home for it is found so people can see it. Of all the statues to put up in Dallas in 1936, 71 years after the end of the Civil War, Lee seems an odd choice. I wonder what prompted it?

    • hankc9174 Sep 18, 2017 @ 12:38

      which is the interesting question.

      White supremacy, segregation and Jim Crow were certainly *not* on the way out in 1936 (no more than slavery in 1860).

      Why the wave of celebratory monuments?

      • woodrowfan Sep 18, 2017 @ 13:00

        one thought, the vets were dying off. For example, “Confederate Veteran” magazine ceased publication in 1932. It ran letters and stories by vets about their experiences. It’s an invaluable source, but by the 1930s there were not as many contributors left nor subscribers.

      • Mike Musick Sep 18, 2017 @ 13:20

        Douglas Southall Freeman published his prize-winning “R.E. Lee: A Biography” in 1934-35. It was exceedingly influential in its time.

  • andersonh1 Sep 15, 2017 @ 12:04

    “The people” didn’t remove anything. Show me where this was anything other than a mayor and city council jumping on the removal bandwagon. Let’s at least be honest about what’s happening here.

    When I looked for any sort of public survey to see what “the people” actually thought, this is what I found:

    “The poll of 503 registered Dallas voters, conducted Thursday through Sunday, began with a preamble: “A group of Dallas leaders are proposing an alternative plan that would keep the General Robert E. Lee statue at Lee Park. Under their plan, the city would leave the Lee statue in the park with the addition of a plaque explaining the historical perspective of the statue. Private funds would then pay for a statue or series of statues in a nearby park that celebrate achievements of the African-American community.”

    The caller then asked respondents whether they would support the plan or prefer the removal of the statues. Only 29 percent supported the statues’ removal and more than 57 percent said they’d supported the “alternative plan.””

    So, once again, as has been true in almost every case in every community where a monument has come down, the majority wants the monument to stay where it is, but it’s removed anyway. It is in no way accurate or truthful to say “the people” are doing any of this, as if monument removal has broad community support when it does not.

    • Reggie Bartlett Sep 15, 2017 @ 23:03

      Facts don’t matter.

      The “narrative” does to these people.

    • Reader Sep 18, 2017 @ 4:31

      Decisions involving city parks in Dallas appear to be made by the city council, not by ephemeral and unscientific opinion poll. If you are correct and the council was acting contrary to the will of the people, we’ll know it at the next election.

      • Ken Noe Sep 18, 2017 @ 6:11

        Exactly. Within the next few months, the nation may strike militarily at North Korea. If that happens, it won’t be because Washington put it to a national vote first, or decided to let a national poll decide. For good or ill, our system is that we elect people to make these decisions.

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